This chapter looks at how excluded and marginalised people are affected by disasters and cope with them. It considers people who are marginalised by gender, age (the young and old) and disability, and by being ethnic or other minorities (including migrants). Gender issues in disasters have been studied extensively, and there is a growing body of knowledge on age and disability. Nevertheless, there is still much to be learnt about excluded people and the factors that make particular groups vulnerable, as well as their capacities to manage risk and be active in DRR.
The different vulnerabilities of women, old and young people are revealed clearly in data on deaths from disasters of many kinds, in different countries and over time. For example, a study in Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami showed that the mortality rate amongst women was 1.9 times greater than amongst men. The mortality rate for children under ten years of age was 2.3 times higher than for adults aged between 20 and 39; for adults over 60, it rose to 3.1 times higher. Similarly, research after the cyclone in Bangladesh in April 1991 showed that mortality was greatest among children under ten and women over 40 (for women, mortality levels increased sharply with age, reaching 40% among the over-60s).+A. Rofi et al., ‘Tsunami Mortality and Displacement in Aceh Province, Indonesia’, Disasters, 30 (3), 2006; C. Bern et al., ‘Risk Factors for Mortality in the Bangladesh Cyclone of 1991’, Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, 71 (1). Differential mortality rates such as these are common, but they are not universal: vulnerability varies considerably according to context and culture, and every disaster is different and will have its own impacts.
In real life people do not fit into the neat categories used in many project baseline surveys and VCAs. Their vulnerabilities may be the product of different forms of marginalisation. For example, a woman’s vulnerability and capacity, and her experience of disasters, are not due simply to gender roles and differences: they may be influenced by her wealth, age, disability, ethnicity and other socio-economic factors. Case Study 5.1 (Gender and disability after disaster) illustrates how such factors can intersect.
An earthquake in northern Pakistan in 2005 killed 80,000 people and injured more than 100,000. Spinal cord injuries from collapsed buildings were common and many people were left permanently disabled. In 2008, researchers visited six affected villages to study the long-term experiences of these disabled people. They found that paraplegic women had largely been abandoned by their husbands and their assistance from family support networks had declined substantially. Their husbands had either married a second wife or planned to do so. Most of the paraplegic men, by contrast, were still fully supported by their wives and relatives. Many girls whose mothers had been disabled were taken out of school to assume domestic roles. A number of girls were married off young, in some cases as replacement wives for husbands of paraplegic women. Men also took their disabled wives’ compensation payments.
H. Irshad et al., ‘Long-term Gendered Consequences of Permanent Disabilities Caused by the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake’, Disasters, 36 (3), 2012.
DRR and resilience-building initiatives should not deal with marginal groups separately, but as part of the whole community, taking an inclusive approach from the start that involves all groups in the community in assessment, decision-making and action: in other words, planning with them and not simply for them. A further key point to note is that, for inclusive approaches to be fully effective (in DRR and other areas), they require the support of an enabling policy and institutional environment that promotes inclusiveness and ensures compliance with laws and regulations.